The Presence of Clouds

I can't seem to allow my creativity to be my prayer today -- at least, I can't find that creativity in images. The text from Exodus 40:16-38 just doesn't inspire me. It's too precise in its description. It reminds me too much of math. I don't want to draw the tabernacle even if it does have a mercy seat. (I find this a strange term since the mercy seat is really the covering and no one is going to sit there at all except perhaps God. Somehow I can't quite get my head around God needing mercy -- but I suppose if I need it, then so does God.)

Instead, I'm wishing I had a different kind of faith. I'm wishing that it were possible for me to see clouds and fire and claps of thunder and even the birds of the sky as God. I'm too rational for that. I can explain it away. As in, it's a bird. It may have been created by God but just because it landed there doesn't mean that there is any purpose for you. It's just a bird doing its thing. And yes, it's just a cloud. It doesn't matter how low it is or if it feels like it's covering you. It's just a cloud. Everyone else sees it too. It doesn't mean that God wants you to stay. It's just a cloud. Of course, the Israelites didn't think this. The cloud was their protection. It let them know when to travel and when to stay. They didn't send a bird out like Noah had. They had something more immediate. They had a cloud that stayed with them, that covered them, that let them know when it was safe to continue the journey.

I would like something like that. I would like to be able to believe in the presence of clouds in this way, but I can't quite grasp it. There's a metaphor there, I think. Certainly, there are things that let us know when it is time to do and when it is time to stay. There are things that protect us and allow us to feel the safety that the Israelites knew in the presence of that cloud. I just don't think it's a cloud for me. It would be nice if it was. If I could just look out my window and see the cloud and know that it's time to stay, I think life would be pretty simple. Obviously, it's not. It's more complicated than that. And so, I have to look for metaphors in other places -- or I have to decide if the freakin' "cloud" is there at all.

See, I think this story could be about call. It could be about the times when we know it's time to go and do a new thing and when we know that we're in the right place. My faith is simple enough that I trust this concept. I just don't know what the damn cloud is that will clue me in to when those particular times are. Right now, I'm feeling like the cloud has lifted. I'm feeling like there is something nudging me toward going on the journey. I'm not really sure what that means though. There are the practical aspects -- like who the hell wants to move to a new place and make a whole new batch of friends, the fact that I bought a home here less than a year ago, the fact that I'm still trying to write this book that I don't seem to find enough time for and the fact that there are things that I've said I would do with this congregation that I haven't done yet. But, there are other thoughts that pop in my head too. There's the fear that I don't know what it is that I would want to do differently than the ministry I have right now. (Not being an Associate Pastor is obvious but I know it's more than that.) There's the reality that every time I look at the Employment Opportunities, there's nothing that grabs my eye. (There are far too many churches that identify as traditional and I want progressive and socially active.) So, I'm left to wonder if the cloud really has lifted or if I just need to allow myself a wee little bit of grace. Maybe I should just plop myself on that mercy seat. Hopefully, God will sit down beside me.

1 comment:

Teri said...

I always thought the mercy seat was where God sat to sort of, um, dispense mercy...not where you sit to receive it. Though now that I typed that, obviously, it's problematic both ways!
RE the cloud--my rational self will tell you that in the Sinai it's like never cloudy, whereas here (where I live, and I suspect where you live) cloudiness is normal.
RE call (cuz I think you're right about the metaphor! Must.Stop.Being.SO.Literal.), I got nuthin'...but I'm holding you in the light and praying that things will be made clear in the time they need to be illuminated.